23rd International Roundtable explores urban sustainability

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Macalester College will host the International Roundtable, an annual, community-wide conference, from September 29 until October 1. The 23rd International Roundtable will focus on the topic of urban sustainability.

Building off of the ideas shared by keynote speakers — professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Julian Agyeman; urban ecologist Sarah Dooling; public artist Seitu Kenneth Jones and Chief Executive Metro NY, Senior VP at AECOM, Chris Ward ’76 — the conference will explore how to build a new generation of sustainable cities. According to environmental studies professor Roopali Phadke, one of the organizers of this year’s roundtable, the annual event takes almost a year to organize.

The topic of sustainable cities seemed like a natural choice: due to Macalester’s location in the middle of two cities grappling with issues around urban development, it is the perfect place to begin a dialogue on how best to promote sustainability both in our community and in other cities around the world.

According to Phadke, as many urban areas struggle to balance the need to provide for their population with the need to protect the environment, the Twin Cities metro area has realized that these two concepts can complement instead of compete with one another.

The main questions to be posed throughout the event are what the cities of tomorrow will look like, and how we are already seeing changes in our cities today that work to increase their sustainability for the future.

For the first time, the roundtable will work to connect art to its subject matter, focusing on the importance of artwork in urban sustainability. This focus on art is also apparent in the selection of Jones as a plenary speaker, as his public art has become a part of the Twin Cities landscape.

On Friday night in the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center, an art reception will take place from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., with multiple exhibits displaying alternative urban centers to further develop sustainable cities.

Also scheduled for the Roundtable are 10 student workshops, two panels and the Roundtable discussion itself. The Roundtable, which is Friday between 11-12:30 p.m., will be led by a student moderator who will pose a set of challenges to the various speakers on campus to see how our community can improve to become more sustainable. Another new feature of the Roundtable this year are the field trips into the Twin Cities community being offered on Saturday afternoon. The students can visit parks and cultural corridors to further explore how the Twin Cities are contributing to sustainable development.

Ultimately, this event is meant to trigger a broader conversation about sustainable cities within the community. However, by being proactive about creating a discussion on sustainable urban centers, Macalester is preparing for the more sustainable and green cities of the future.

“[Helping to plan the Roundtable] was overwhelming, but the IGC student workers… have been so amazing and supportive. We are excited to see it all finally come together,” IGC student worker Lisa Shirai ’19 said.

Friday’s Roundtable is named “Opportunities, Challenges, and Strategies for Building Sustainable Cities,” and will take place in JBD. Other events Friday include five student-led panels, Seitu Kenneth Jones’s plenary speech 9:10-10:40 a.m. in JBD and, from 6:00-9:00 p.m., the Art Reception in Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center.